The new global stocktake of net zero commitments by the Net Zero Tracker, which Thomas Hale co-leads, found that while demand for credible and robust net zero targets is mounting, corporates and sub-national governments are falling short.

The analysis — which draws upon the Net Zero Tracker database of over 4,000 entities, 1,178 of which have net zero targets — shows that most countries have now defined a path to net zero.

Some findings include:

  • 91% of global GDP is now captured by national government net zero targets, up from 68% in December 2020. 
  • National government targets represent at least 83% of global GHG emissions (up from 61% in December 2020).
  • 80% of the global population (up from 52%) is represented by national net zero targets. 

Pledges to reach net zero emissions represent a step up in ambition, reflecting what science says is required to stabilise the climate. The global consensus on net zero is placing these targets from non-state actors under intensifying scrutiny, with now more than one-third of companies in the ‘Forbes Global 2000’ having set a long-term emissions reduction target. That said, only 35% (246/702) of corporate targets meet the minimum procedural ‘starting line criteria’ recommended by the UN’s Race to Zero campaign (i.e. including a published plan, immediate emission-cutting measures and an annual reporting mechanism).  Moreover, around half of the Forbes Global 2,000 does not have a target of any kind. 

Thomas Hale, Associate Professor at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, said: 

"Science-aligned net zero pathways are now the baseline expectation for countries, companies, cities, and regions. It’s insane that two-thirds of the largest companies have yet to set a target for a transition that is well underway. But given a third now have - and that number has grown substantially - the increasingly glaring omissions raise the question of whether boards and management are doing their jobs.

“We need to shift from voluntary or aspirational pledges to concrete implementation plans with real accountability. For companies, this is already becoming a regulatory requirement in many jurisdictions.

“The smartest companies have seen the writing on the wall and are quickly moving ahead, but too many are still imagining that some sort of clever ESG accounting is going to allow them to avoid deep decarbonisation."

This report updates and expands the data and analysis presented in the ECIU and Oxford’s ‘Taking Stock’ report, the first systematic analysis of global net zero commitments across countries, sub-national governments and major companies.